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Talking to terrorists

By Amelia Smith | MEMO | July 2, 2015

One week ago, Tunisian student Seifeddine Rezgai opened fire on tourists near Sousse, Tunisia, killing 38 people. On the same day, a man was beheaded in France and a bomb detonated in a Shia mosque in Kuwait killing 27. ISIS claimed responsibility for all three.

Amidst the media coverage that follows terrorist attacks such as these, two schools of thought generally emerge: one asserts that terrorists are driven by religious ideology and the other that they are driven by political motives, principally western foreign policy. “All the evidence suggests that this is deeply political,” says Richard Jackson, Deputy Director of the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago in New Zealand. “It’s the conclusion of all the serious scholars I’m aware of that, in particular, the invasion of Iraq was the single most radicalising event for militants across the Middle East and in European and Western countries.”

“That makes complete sense,” he continues. “Because if we look at this kind of terrorism it wasn’t around in the same form and the same level or even close to the same extent 20, 30, 40, 50 years ago. Islam’s been around for hundreds of years… but this is a very modern phenomenon and it’s very, very connected to the politics of the Middle East, particularly to the invasions to Guantanamo, to Abu Ghraib torture, to drone strikes and so on.”

“What you’ve got to remember is that the west has killed 1.3 million people in Iraq. That’s likely to drive any reasonable person into a rage and cause immense grievance.”

The Tunisian government responded to last Friday’s attacks by issuing an order to close more than 80 mosques. Jackson, who is also Chief Editor of Critical Studies on Terrorism and runs a blog on the subject, explains that one of the oldest precepts of theories on terrorism states that isolated acts of violence push the state to respond by cracking down, which in turn intensifies grievances against the state and mobilises support.

The theory, he says, “is that you provoke the power to respond in a disproportionate way, which then creates grievance, which then gives terrorists more support and leads eventually to a broader, deeper movement that can perhaps consider moving to the next stage, which would be a kind of a civil war or an insurgency and then eventually overthrowing [the] regime.” […]

Last year, Jackson took a break from writing academic books to pen Confessions of a Terrorist, a fictional account of a dialogue between a wanted terrorist and a British intelligence officer. Jackson says he has always wanted a novel to give to his students but only found literature that painted terrorists out to be Hollywood-style villains.

Confessions of a Terrorist questions the taboo of talking to terrorists and the fear many have that doing so will lead to understanding and sympathising with their behaviour. “I think that it’s really important that we talk to them so we know what we really want and so that we understand what they’re trying to achieve and why they think they have to use violence… and whether if the situation was reversed we would do the same thing… [T]he reality is in many ways we go and commit a lot of violence overseas and then when people react against that and fight back we get all shocked and surprised. So we need to talk to them.”

“If you look at the academic research, you find out that actually most terrorist groups are not defeated through military means, but a much higher proportion of them stop their terrorism through political dialogue,” he continues. “So once you start talking to them and once you bring them into the political process, once you listen to what their grievances are and try and address them terrorism subsides.”

One of the consequences of not talking to terrorists, believes Jackson, is that we have dehumanised them which allows us to take away their human rights and justifies acts such as killing them with drones. “As a consequence countless innocent people have been killed… Countless innocent people have been tortured; have been kidnapped and taken to these horrible, secret prisons around the world. All kinds of human rights abuses have been carried out and as a result we in many ways have betrayed our own values and that’s because we’ve dehumanised the terrorists and that’s why I think it’s really important to re-humanise them.”

The language of terrorism is thus a way of defining the “other” and drawing a distinction between us and them, good versus evil, freedom lovers against freedom haters and soldiers and patriots against terrorists, says Jackson: “You can look through history – recent and long in the past –and realise that actually governments commit exactly the same acts as so-called terrorists. They use violence to try and terrify groups of people and intimidate groups of people. Sometimes, they plant bombs in public places or blow up or hijack planes. There are so many examples.”

A lot of terrorist scholars argue, therefore, that if the definition of terrorism is applied objectively a lot of state violence can be classified as state terrorism. “But again, that’s a very difficult narrative to make and to be accepted in public because we like to have these clear lines between our good legitimate violence which comes out of the authority of the state and illegitimate, illegal violence,” says Jackson.

“The problem is that when those two forms of violence look identical and you can’t tell the difference between them; [then] there comes to be a question over [whether] our violence [is] actually that legitimate.”

July 3, 2015 Posted by | Book Review, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | Leave a comment

Freedom Flotilla: ‘Tasering my friend Charlie was an act of terrorism’

By Richard Sudan | RT | July 1, 2015

Despite the Israeli authorities’ claims that the seizure of a Freedom Flotilla boat was ‘uneventful’, footage has emerged that indicated that they tasered a Swedish aid worker.

The boats making up Freedom Flotilla 3 (FF3) have been prevented from reaching the besieged people of Gaza and deliver humanitarian aid. The flotilla’s flagship Marianne was boarded by the Israeli military and taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod earlier in the week. By now, some of the crew members have been released, while others remain detained.

Meanwhile, the boat I was meant to be on has not yet left a Greek port. It will head to Gaza at some point. I have been asked not to publish the details. But we will go.

The Israeli authorities claim that their soldiers were ‘non-violent’ as they took over the Marianne, which amounted to an illegal act of piracy, as the vessel was in international waters at the time it was intercepted. The Israeli authorities claimed that there were no injuries when they seized the boat which they had no right to do, legally or morally. The illegal act has been described as ‘uneventful’.

Unsurprisingly though, footage has emerged which shows that the opposite is true. The video shows Arab member of the Israeli Knesset (parliament) Basel Ghattas, who I had long conversations with on my trip, first addressing the Israeli Navy before the soldiers boarded the Marianne. The footage then shows Israeli Navy thugs repeatedly tasering Swedish activist and humanitarian aid worker Charlie Andreasson.

Charlie has spent much time in Gaza. He’s a really nice guy and a genuine individual, the kind of selfless character you meet when preparing for a campaign like this. I had the pleasure of talking with him many times as we prepared for Freedom Flotilla 3, and ate dinner with him just a few days ago.

I watched the video of Charlie being tasered and knew it was him before I even read the article.

It was a sickening feeling. According to Oxford dictoniaries.com a taser is ‘a weapon firing barbs attached by wires to batteries, causing temporarily paralysis’. In reality though, tasering is an extremely violent act which can even cause death. There are campaign groups which lobby against the use of tasers by police for this very reason.

But this is how Israel routinely behaves. In typical fashion the Israeli leadership has sought to distract attention from its own crimes. Netanyahu wrote a letter published in the press and delivered to the activists on the boat. He says they must have gotten lost and perhaps should have headed to Syria. He exploits one tragedy to cynically justify another.

And here he does it again, suggesting that Israel is a beacon of light, justice, surrounded by hostile neighbors in the Middle East trying valiantly to uphold those oh so cherished values we hold dear. You can almost hear the harps playing and the angels singing when you read the letter his press office wrote for him on his behalf. He invites the readers to be “Impressed by the only democracy in the Middle East”.

Well Benjamin, we invite you to go to Gaza and to see what Israel’s democracy looks like if you happen to be a Palestinian and born in Gaza. He says that the leadership in Gaza is “using children as human shields.” Perhaps this comment is written by Netanyahu’s office to deflect attention from the fact that Israel killed hundreds of Palestinians last year including many children, and has done so since 1948.

Netanyahu claims that the people on the flotilla were bringing weapons to Gaza. This is false and nothing but an attempt by Israel to save face in the wake of yet another act of piracy committed at sea. They have to say that we are terrorists, because as it is, the world forming a much clearer picture as to the true extent and nature of Israel’s war crimes.

I’ll end here with a story that Charlie told me once when we were sitting down talking, in the company of two other activists.

Charlie told of a time he was in Gaza, and saw a young man shot by an Israeli soldier, possibly a sniper, as they found themselves under attack as is routine in Gaza.

Charlie and whoever else was there couldn’t help the Palestinian man as they were still being shot at. They had to watch him die, unable to reach him as he lay just a few feet away. They then had to inform the father that his son was dead-while the body of his son still lay in the road, unable to be recovered. The boys’ father thanked them.

I’ve never even seen the image of this happening, but yet I can’t shake it from my mind. Charlie is a brave person and didn’t deserve the treatment he got by the Israeli navy.

The Israeli soldiers are brainwashed and carrying out the work of Netanyahu’s war criminal regime. The sooner people wake up to this the better.

Richard Sudan, is a London based writer, political activist, and performance poet. Follow him on Twitter.

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Britain approved £4mn Israel arms sales in the months after Gaza war

RT | July 2, 2015

The UK government approved £4 million worth of arms sales to Israel in the immediate months following the Israeli government’s military bombardment of Gaza last summer, new research reveals.

Detailed analysis published Thursday indicates that the related arms licenses cover military hardware likely to be deployed if violence in the besieged coastal strip resumes.

Among the arms sales Britain presided over were special components for military helicopters and a range of hi-tech parts for guidance and navigation systems used by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

The former Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government also approved arms licenses for a slew of third-party states that sell weapons to Israel. These particular licenses covered the sale of components for military communications equipment, helicopters used in combat and ground-to-ground missiles.

CI5fc7iW8AApjHnThe controversial revelations formed part of a report authored by David Wearing, a researcher at the School of African and Oriental Studies (SOAS). A member of Campaign Against the Arms Trade’s (CAAT) steering committee, Wearing’s work focuses on domestic and international politics.

The research, “Arming Apartheid: UK Complicity in Israel’s Crimes Against the Palestinian People,” analyses how Britain’s arming of Israel renders it complicit in grievous human rights violations.

CAAT’s Andrew Smith said the revelations published in the report showed it was “business as usual” with Israel for the UK government.

“More than 2,000 people died in Israel’s bombardment of Gaza, and yet in the months immediately following the conflict it was business as usual for the UK government and the arms companies they support,” he said.

Smith said that Britain continues to sell arms to Israel, despite the Israeli administration’s continued violation of international law.

“The continuation of arms sales represents a form of political as well as material support from the UK to Israel despite the construction of the ‘apartheid wall’ in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements there and the ongoing blockade of Gaza,” he said.

Palestine Solidarity Campaign director Sarah Colborne said the British state is arming an “apartheid” regime. She argued Palestinians will not be freed from Israeli occupation, discrimination, and bloodshed until sanctions are imposed on Israel.

Ryvka Barnard, a senior campaigner on militarism and security at War on Want, said the Arming Apartheid study highlights Britain’s complicity in “Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people.”

She argued that the global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on Israel has become more vital than ever.

“Only a full two-way arms embargo can ensure the UK will no longer be complicit in Israeli state crimes and abuses,” he said.

Report author Wearing says ministers’ suggestion that British controls on arms exports are tightly controlled “do not stand up to scrutiny.”

“Any real restriction comes from the embarrassment of bad publicity, and then only in the wake of a conflict, too late for the Palestinians affected,” he added.

Britain has a history of unethical arms sales to Israel.

A ministerial statement issued in April 2009 by the then-Labour Foreign Secretary David Miliband confirmed that Israeli military wares used in the 2008-9 Gaza conflict “almost certainly” contained UK-supplied components.

The document was sent to the anti-arms charity after it launched a legal challenge against then-Secretary of State for Business, Innovations and Skills Vince Cable in 2014.

Last summer’s Israel-Palestine conflict culminated in the killing of an estimated 2,000 Palestinians [mostly civilians]. Israel, by contrast, suffered the deaths of 64 soldiers and three civilians during the conflict.

~~~

Take Action

Infographic mapping UK bases of suppliers of military and security equipment to IsraelAct now to Stop Arming Israel. Help increase the pressure on the UK government to end its arms trade with Israel and its complicity in Israel’s occupation and war crimes.

1. Email your MP to demand a two-way arms embargo against Israel.

2. Order campaign materials and book a speaker.

3. Target the companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.

Find the suppliers on your doorstep

More than 100 companies supplying military and security equipment to Israel have bases in the UK. Find out about the suppliers on your doorstep.

Block the factory!

During last summer’s assault on Gaza, activists occupied Israeli arms company Elbit’s factory in Shenstone, causing its operations to grind to a halt and costing Elbit over £100,000. On 6th July, to mark the first anniversary of the assault on Gaza, groups and campaigners from across the UK are going back to Elbit’s factory to demand that the UK stops arming Israel. Join a day of creative action in solidarity with Palestine!

4. Support BDS

Support the Palestinian call for a global movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel. Visit waronwant.org/BDS

July 2, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

What’s Behind ISIS: Zionism or Wahhabism? Debate Show

November 28, 2014

Part 1

Part 2

July 1, 2015 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , | Leave a comment

If Israel was a democracy, Freedom Flotilla would be allowed to Gaza

Richard Sudan | RT | June 29, 2015

Three of the four boats in the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla have turned back as the flagship Marianne was intercepted by the Israeli military and rerouted to Ashdod port. If Israel was a democracy it would grant this boat safe passage to Gaza.

These activists are peaceful people sailing in international waters, and are attempting to bring aid, and to donate a fishing boat to the people of Gaza, who are at the mercy of one of the most ruthless and sophisticated armed forces in the world. An attempt to stop them while they are in international waters, itself constitutes a breach of international law. Israel commits war crimes which are acknowledged by the United Nations and many human rights organizations. Let’s consider who the real terrorists in this scenario are. It isn’t the people struggling to have a decent quality of life in the most densely populated piece of land in the world. The idea that Palestinians could present a threat to such a powerful state as Israel is simply ludicrous. Israel holds the political, military, and economic power and controls the information narrative.

We should never forget when thinking about the Freedom Flotilla Coalition, that when Israeli forces stormed the Mavi Marmara in 2010, in an act of piracy, they killed nine people with one person later dying from injuries. The authorities have acted as if no crime was ever committed and as if Israel has nothing to answer for. That is state-sponsored violence with complete impunity.

Our boat is the last to set sail. However, we were told Sunday that our boat for now remains in Athens, and is not moving. At the moment, that’s all I can say.

For this reason, at the time of writing, we are preparing to deviate from the original plan and are making alternate plans to reach our ultimate destination. I would like to be specific at this point but cannot say much more than I already have. What I can say however, is that everyone here is motivated by a drive to highlight what is happening in Gaza through peaceful means.

We are being labeled as trouble makers and as agitators who are trying to make trouble for Israel, which of course is always presented as being guilty of nothing.

Past and present parliamentarians from different nations, aid workers, scholars, and journalists do not paint a picture of terrorists. Actually they have a track record of working against terrorists, many of them working in areas of conflict in the past with people who have had their lives torn apart by war.

They say, as they do when anyone tries to reach Gaza that the act in itself is an act of terrorism because the government in Gaza is run by Hamas. Hamas – who were elected and who represent the people.

Whatever one might think of Hamas is irrelevant, unless of course you happen to live in Palestine. Hamas did not bomb hundreds of innocent people last summer including hundreds of children.

The act of trying to prevent some fishing boats being delivered to people who are trapped and who have no freedom of movement is a monstrous one. These activists are unarmed and are 100 percent not a threat to Israel; they are pretty selfless human beings who simply care. If Israel was a democracy it would grant these activists safe passage. Israel however fulfills none of its obligations to the people of Palestine, and so it’s no surprise that it refuses to acknowledge the humanitarian crisis it has created.

What is wrong with equal rights for everyone under a system which treats everyone the same? If it was good enough for South Africa then surely it’s good enough for the rest of the world.

The FF3 coalition is a peaceful campaign absolutely maintaining a policy of nonviolence. It seems pretty clear though at this stage as if Israel is determined to allow no aid through to Gaza, and will continue to act as judge, jury, and executioner towards anyone that dare question or disagree with the colonial settler state.

I hope the brave souls who are on the vessels already at sea make it and that no harm comes to any of them. They do not deserve to have their names dragged through the dirt by a largely ignorant liberal press, and it’s an utter disgrace that many are happy to highlight a humanitarian crisis elsewhere in the world, while Palestine gets pushed to the side-lines. If FF3 serves to highlight any of this then the campaign will have been worth it.

Richard Sudan, is a London based writer, political activist, and performance poet. Follow him on Twitter.

June 29, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Neocons Urge Embrace of Al Qaeda

By Daniel Lazare | Consortium News | June 26, 2015

Just nine days after the fall of the World Trade Center, George W. Bush announced that he was imposing a radical new policy on virtually the entire globe: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”

As dramatic as the statement was, just about every phrase was open to question in one form or another. But rather than launching into a long and vigorous debate about the meaning of terrorism or America’s right to impose diktat on the world at large, congressmen turned their minds off and gave Bush a standing ovation.

Today, the same Bush Doctrine is sinking beneath the waves as a growing portion of the punditocracy declares that some forms of terrorism are better than others and that harboring a terrorist may not be so bad if it advances U.S. interests. But once again, the response is not questioning, debate, or even applause, but silence.

The latest evidence of a sea change in establishment thinking is a blog that Ahmed Rashid, a prominent Middle East correspondent, recently published on The New York Review of Books website. Entitled “Why We Need al-Qaeda,” it argues that Al Qaeda and its Syrian affiliate, Al Nusra, are evolving in a more moderate direction in growing contrast to its rival, the super-violent Islamic State. So why not use Al Nusra as a counterforce against both Bashar al-Assad and ISIS?

As Rashid puts it: “Unlike ISIS, which demands absolute subjugation of the inhabitants of any territory it conquers (surrender or be executed), al-Nusra is cooperating with other anti-Assad groups and recently joined the ‘Army of Conquest’ alliance of rebel militias in northern Syria. Moreover, in contrast to ISIS’s
largely international and non-Syrian fighting force, al-Nusra’s fighters are almost wholly Syrian, making them both more reliable and more committed to Syria’s future.

“Meanwhile, in interviews with Al Jazeera, al-Nusra leaders have vowed not to attack
targets in the West, promoting an ideology that might be called ‘nationalist jihadism’ rather than global jihad. In recent months, al-Nusra’s leaders
have toned down the implementation of their own brutal version of Islamic law, while putting on hold their own plans of building a caliphate.”

Thus, according to Rashid’s viewpoint, Al Nusra is cooperative, patriotic, unthreatening to anyone other than Assad, and in favor of a kinder and gentler form of shari‘a as well. Yet, Rashid argues, that while Turkey and the Arab gulf states recognize that change is afoot, the U.S. keeps its eyes resolutely shut:

“With 230,000 killed and 7.6 million people uprooted in Syria alone, the Arab states want a quick end to the Assad regime and a viable solution for Syria. They know that solution will never come from the weak moderate opposition, and that
any lasting peace will require support by the strong and ruthless Islamist
groups fighting there.”

Gulf States’ Favorite

So the gulf states are backing the second most ruthless Islamist group in Syria (Al Qaeda’s affiliate) in hopes of offsetting the first most ruthless (ISIS) and making short work of the Baathist regime in Damascus. But as Arab leaders prepare for direct negotiations with Al Nusra, Rashid warns, “the only one not at the table could be the
United States.”

This is dramatic stuff. After all, Rashid is not taking aim at some minor doctrine, but one that has been a cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy since 9/11. Moreover, he’s not the only one talking this way. Since Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew to Riyadh in early March to meet with Saudi King Salman and discuss ways of upping support for the Syrian Islamist opposition, there has been a veritable boomlet in terms of calls for a rapprochement with Al Qaeda.

Within days of the Riyadh get-together, Foreign Affairs went public with an article arguing that even though “the United States is the closest it has ever been to destroying al Qaeda, its interests would be better served by keeping the terrorist organization afloat.” Lina Khatib, director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, wrote a few weeks later that “while not everyone likes Nusra’s ideology, there is a growing sense in the north of Syria that it is the best alternative on the ground – and that ideology is a small price to pay for higher returns.”

Charles Lister of the Brookings Institute’s Doha Center, wrote that Al Nusra is undergoing a “moderating shift.” Frederic Hof, Obama’s former envoy to the Syrian guerrillas and now a senior fellow at the Atlantic Council in Washington, said the group has become “a real magnet for young Syrian fighters who don’t have any particular jihadist or even radical sectarian agenda.” They are drawn to Al Nusra, he explained, for two reasons – because it’s “well-resourced” and because it “seems to have been willing to fight the regime and not to engage in some of the corrupt activities and warlordism that you would find elsewhere within the panoply of Syrian opposition.”

So, Rashid’s views are hardly unique. Nonetheless, they’re the most explicit and upfront to date, an indication that support for an alliance with Al Qaeda is on the upswing and that advocates are growing bolder and more self-confident. So how should ordinary people who are not part of the elite foreign-policy discussion respond?

One-Sided Arguments

For one thing, they might notice that such articles are remarkably one-sided and poorly reasoned. Rashid may be “one of Pakistan’s most respected journalists,” as the BBC puts it, someone whose work has appeared in such publications as the Daily Telegraph and the Far Eastern Economic Review. Yet shooting holes through his arguments is child’s play.

Take his claim that “al-Nusra’s leaders have toned down the implementation of their own brutal version of Islamic law.” Whatever the difference between Al Nusra and ISIS on this score, it’s less impressive than Rashid lets on.

The Soufan Group, a New York-based security firm headed by a Lebanese-American ex-FBI agent named Ali H. Soufan, notes, for instance, that while Islamic State released a video in January showing its forces stoning an accused adulteress, Al Nusra released one around the same time showing its forces shooting two women for the same alleged offense. Since the victims in either case were killed, the difference, as the Soufan Group noted, was purely “stylistic.”

Rashid claims that Al Nusra is less extreme in its hostility to Shi‘ism, in part because it thinks “anti-Shia fanaticism” is backfiring and becoming “an impediment to gaining more territory.” Indeed, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, Al Nusra’s commander-in-chief, told Al Jazeera in a rare interview on May 27 that his forces were willing to welcome Alawites, as Syria’s Shi‘ites are known, back into the fold.

“If they drop weapons,” al-Julani said, “disavow Assad, do not send their men to fight for him and return to Islam, then they are our brothers.” But when he described Alawism as a sect that has “moved outside the religion of God and of Islam,” the meaning became clear: Alawite must either convert or die.

Whether this makes Al Nusra less genocidal than ISIS is open to debate. According to the pro-rebel Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, meanwhile, Al Nusra recently massacred more than 20 Druze villagers in northwestern Syria – reportedly after a local commander denounced them as kuffar, or infidels, while al-Julani, in his Al Jazeera interview, specified that Christians must pay the jizya, a special head tax imposed by Islamic law, as well – a stipulation Syria’s ten-percent Christian minority is not likely to find very reassuring.

Ordinary people viewing this from afar might notice that the government that al-Julani is seeking to overthrow is officially secular and non-discriminatory and that even Obama has conceded that it has “protected the Christians in Syria,” as he told a Syrian Christian delegation last September. They might also notice that Rashid’s article is in other respects highly revealing, although not in ways he cares to admit.

For instance, Rashid writes that U.S. policy in the Middle East is beset by “growing contradictions.” This is obviously correct. But the problem is not that Washington refuses to face facts about Al Nusra’s alleged moderating trend, but that the U.S. is attempting to hammer out an accord with Iran while struggling to preserve its alliance with Israel and the Arab gulf states, all of whom regard Iran as public enemy number one.

Obama’s Fence Straddling

The effort has led to monumental fence straddling. While entering into talks with Iran, the Obama administration has given the go-ahead to Saudi Arabia’s two-month-old assault on Iranian-allied forces in Yemen while turning a blind eye to growing Turkish and Saudi support for anti-Iranian terrorists in Syria.

While paying lip service to the Bush Doctrine that he who harbors a terrorist is as bad as a terrorist, the Obama administration made no objection when the Saudis and Turks donated U.S.-made TOW missiles to Al Nusra-led forces in northern Syria or when the Saudi bombing campaign allowed Al Qaeda to expand in Yemen.

It’s a mixed-up policy that has people in the Middle East shaking their heads. Yet Rashid adds to the confusion by misrepresenting the Saudi role. He writes, for instance, that the Arab States are swinging behind Al Nusra because they “want a quick end to the Assad regime and a viable solution for Syria,” when, in fact, Saudi Wahhabists have sought from the start to impose a government much like their own, as a report by U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency observed back in August 2012.

Rather than “viable,” such a government would be precisely the opposite for a highly variegated society like Syria with its large Christian, Shi‘ite, and Druze minorities fearful of Sunni fundamentalist domination – yet the gulf states, backed by the U.S., have pushed on regardless.

On the issue of Al Qaeda’s brutal intolerance, Rashid adds, “For Arab leaders, determining whether al-Qaeda has really changed
will depend on the group’s long-term attitude toward Shias,” suggesting that the gulf states are seeking a fairer outcome for Syria’s Alawites.

Saudi Intolerance

But this is misleading as well since Saudi attitudes toward the kingdom’s own 15-percent Shi‘ite minority are deeply oppressive and seem to be getting worse.

According to the Cambridge scholar Toby Matthiesen, for example, Saudi Shi‘ites are barred from the army and the National Guard as well as the top rungs of the government.  State-mandated schoolbooks denounce them as “rejectionists,” while, according to the independent scholar Mai Yamani, they cannot testify in court or marry a Sunni and must put up with abuse from Wahhabist clerics who regularly preach that killing a Shi‘ite merits a greater heavenly reward than killing a Christian or a Jew.

Since Salman’s accession in late January, there is no sign of a softening. Indeed, by bombing Yemen’s Shi‘ite Houthi rebels and stepping up support for fanatically anti-Shi‘ite rebels in Syria, Salman gives every indication of intensifying his anti-Shi‘ite crusade and taking it abroad.

Neocons pushing for an explicit alliance with Al Nusra are thus attempting to plunge the U.S. ever more deeply into a growing sectarian war. Ordinary people might also notice that such “experts” expound their views from cushy posts financed by Qatar (the case with Brookings’ Doha Center) or by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain (the case with the Atlantic Council).

Yet Congress doesn’t care about such conflicts of interest and the White House is too intimidated to speak out, while the American people at large are not consulted. Questioning and debate are more imperative than ever, yet they are as absent as they were back in 2001.

June 26, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Will Turkey’s Election Give Peace a Chance in Syria?

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | June 24, 2015

The June 7 parliamentary election in Turkey could have a huge impact on the conflict in Syria. The invincible image of President Erdogan has been cracked. There is a real chance that the election might lead to substantive change in Turkish foreign policy promoting the war in Syria.

Even though Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the most votes, they lost their majority in parliament and must now find a coalition partner. Turkey’s new parliament was seated for the first time on Tuesday June 23. Now begins the political bargaining and negotiations to form a governing coalition. Depending on the outcome, Turkey may stop or seriously restrict the flow of weapons and foreign fighters through its territory into Syria.  If Turkey does this, it would offer a real prospect for movement toward negotiations and away from war in Syria. Why? The Syrian war continues because Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Kuwait, USA, France, UK and others are spending billions of dollars annually to fund the armed opposition and sustain the war in violation of the UN Charter and international law.

Closely allied with Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, Turkey has been the primary path for weapons and foreign fighters in Syria. ISIS has depended on export of oil and import of weapons and fighters through Turkey. Jabhat al Nusra, Ahrar al Sham and other armed opposition groups have depended on weapons and foreign fighters coming in via Turkey for attacks on northern Syria including Syria’s largest city, Aleppo.

Turkish Government Support of War on Syria

The following examples show the extent of Turkish involvement in the war on Syria:

  • Turkey hosts the Political and Military Headquarters of the armed opposition. Most of the political leaders are former Syrians who have not lived there for decades.
  • Turkey provides home base for armed opposition leaders. As quoted in the Vice News video Syria: Wolves of the Valley: “Most of the commanders actually live in Turkey and commute in to the fighting when necessary.”
  • Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT has provided its own trucks for shipping huge quantities of weapons and ammunition to Syrian armed opposition groups.  According to court testimony they made at least 2,000 trips to Syria.
  • Turkey is suspected of supplying the chemical weapons used in Ghouta in August 2013 as reported by Seymour Hersh here.  In May 2013, Nusra fighters were arrested in possession of sarin but quickly and quietly released by Turkish authorities.
  • Turkey’s foreign minister, top spy chief and senior military official were secretly recorded plotting an incident to justify Turkish military strikes against Syria. A sensational recording of the meeting was publicized, exposing the plot in advance and likely preventing it from proceeding.
  • Turkey has provided direct aid and support to attacking insurgents. When insurgents attacked Kassab Syria on the border in spring 2014, Turkey provided backup military support and ambulances for injured fighters. Turkey shot down a Syrian jet fighter that was attacking the invading insurgents. The plane landed 7 kms inside Syrian territory, suggesting that Turkish claims it was in Turkish air space are likely untrue.
  • Turkey has recently increased its coordination with Saudi Arabia and Qatar. This has led to the recent assaults by thousands of foreign fighters on Idlib and Jisr al Shugour in northern Syria. Armed with advanced weaponry including TOW missiles, and using suicide bomb vehicles, the armed groups over-ran Syrian armed forces defending both cities. The assaults were facilitated by Turkey jamming and disrupting Syrian radio communications.
  • Turkey has facilitated travel into northern Syria by extremist mercenaries from all parts of the globe including Chechen Russians, Uyghur Chinese, Europeans, North Africans, South Asians including Indonesians and Malaysians. The assault on Jisr al Shugour was spearheaded by Chinese Uyghur fighters and suicide bombers crossing over from Turkey with tanks and heavy artillery.
  • Turkey itself has provided steady supply of recruits to the Islamic State. Like other countries which have had citizens indoctrinated with wahabi fanaticism, they have done little or nothing to limit the indoctrination or restrict emigration for ‘jihad’.
  • Turkey has permitted the supply of huge quantities of car bomb ingredients (ammonium nitrate fertilizer) to the Islamic State. On May 4 the NY Times reported these shipments at the Turkish border. Sixteen days later ISIS over-ran Ramadi in an assault that began with 30 car bombs with ten reportedly the size of the Oklahoma City bombing.
  • Finally, as part of its continuing effort to draw the U.S. and NATO into direct participation in the war on Syria, Turkey is an active player in various propaganda campaigns. For example, the “White Helmets” or “Syrian Civil Defence” are trained and supplied in Turkey. Some of the videos purportedly from Syria are likely filmed in Turkey at their training site. White Helmets and Syrian Civil Defence are both creations of the West and join with Turkey in calling for a “No Fly Zone”.

Turkish Repression of Journalism, Police and Courts

The AKP government has vigorously tried to suppress information about the extent of Turkey’s support of the war on Syria. They have resorted to repression and intimidation such as:

  • Turkish authorities have charged four regional prosecutors with attempting to topple the government. Their “crime” was to insist on the inspection of four trucks headed from Turkey to Syria. The trucks contained weapons and ammunition in violation of Turkish law. The trial of the four prosecutors is ongoing, 18 months after the inspection.
  • Turkish authorities arrrested seven high ranking military officers over the inspection of trucks taking weapons and fighters to Syria.
  • Turkish authorities banned social media and news outlets from reporting on arms shipments through Turkey to Syria. Twitter and Facebook accounts that talked about the shipments where shut down. Erdogan went on to threaten to “eradicate” Twitter.
  • Turkish President Erdogan threatened two life term sentences for the editor of Hurriyet daily newspaper for publicizing support of the armed opposition in Syria by Turkey’s intelligence agency MIT.
  • A whistle-blowing MIT (intelligence agency) officer who opposed the agency’s collusion with terrorism in Syria was arrested, convicted and imprisoned. After two years he managed to escape and tell his story. The blockbuster account was broadcast on Turkey’s OdaTV and later translated into English and published here.

Was American Journalist Serena Shim Murdered?

As seen in the examples above, Turkish AKP authorities have aggressively tried to suppress information on the involvement in Syria. If they have been that aggressive with Turkish journalists, prosecutors and military officers, how far might they go against a foreign journalist working for Iran’s Press TV?

The American born journalist Serena Shim died just days after she documented the use of World Food Program trucks to transport foreign fighters to the border with Syria and into ISIS territory. After learning that Turkish intelligence was looking for her, Serena Shim was so concerned that she expressed her fear on television. Two days later, Serena Shim’s car was hit head-on by a cement truck. The driver of the cement truck disappeared but was later found. There are many discrepancies about what happened. The first reports indicated the truck and driver left without stopping.  Then the driver and truck were located, and then photos appeared showing a collision.

While some Turkish security services have preemptively exonerated the driver of the cement truck, the local prosecutor has filed charges against the driver, accusing him of causing death through negligence. There are many suspicious aspects, not least is the fact that the cement truck’s wheels are angled toward the car, not away as one would expect with a vehicle trying to avoid collision.

The death of American journalist Serena Shim, and her factual investigative reporting on Syria and Turkey, stands in sharp contrast with the sensational media accounts about the “kidnapping” of NBC reporter Richard Engel. That event turned out to be a hoax contrived by “rebels” to manipulate American political opinion. With the complicity of individual reporters and mainstream media, the fraud was successful. The bias in mainstream western media is further demonstrated by the almost complete media silence about the death of Serena Shim and her important journalistic work.

Turkey’s Election

For the past 13 years Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) has had majority control of Turkey’s parliament. In the recent election AKP’s share of the popular voted plummeted 10% and they lost their parliamentary majority. The results are a clear rebuff to Erdogan and AKP policies. Sixty percent of voters went against AKP, splitting the vote among the three alternative parties. The pro-Kurdish and Leftist People’s Democratic Party (HDP) burst onto the scene capturing 13% of the votes and equaling the number of parliamentary seats captured by the rightist and anti-Kurdish National Movement Party (MHP). The main opposition party is the social democratic Republican Peoples Party (CHP) with 26% of the vote.

Over the coming weeks, AKP will try to form a coalition government with one or more of the alternate parties. However, it won’t be easy. The natural bedfellow would be the anti-Kurdish and rightist MHP, but they are demanding the resumption of a corruption trial against AKP leaders including Erdogan’s son Bilal.  That trial would probably lead back to President Erdogan himself, so it seems unlikely AKP will ally with MHP. The three alternative parties could form a coalition to govern without AKP, but it’s hard to imagine the staunchly anti-Kurdish MHP allying with the pro-Kurdish HDP.

If a majority coalition cannot be formed within 45 days, the Turkish constitution requires a rerun of the election.

Election Should Bring Major Change in Syrian Policy

Even with severe repression and intimidation, the Turkish public is aware of Turkey’s policy supporting war on Syria. One consequence of the war has been almost 2 million immigrant refugees with the dispersal of many throughout Turkey, providing cheap labor and adding significantly to the unemployment problem. In addition, there have been terrorist attacks in the border region and an escalation of corruption and repression as external money and weapons have flooded the area en route to Syria. The war against Syria has been widely unpopular and played a significant role in the election.

  • All the opposition parties called for change in Turkey’s foreign policy.
  • Criticism of Erdogan and Davutoglu’s policy even comes from within the AKP membership: “Many believe that one reason for the AKP’s dismal showing in the 2015 elections is its policy on Syria.”
  • The head of the main opposition party (CHP) says Turkey will start controlling the border and stop the flood of arms and fighters into Syria.

The coming weeks will indicate how Turkey moves forward:  Will AKP manage to form a coalition government with one of the opposition parties? Or will there be another election?

Will Turkey start enforcing the border and stop shipments of arms to the armed opposition as demanded by the leader of the main opposition party?  This would be a huge change in the dynamics within Syria. Without a rear base of constant and steady support, the armed opposition would be forced to rely on their own resources rather than those of foreign governments.  They would quickly wither since they have very little support base within Syria.

Since the election, there are already signs of a shift in the balance. Kurdish forces recently captured ISIS’ important border crossing at Tal Abyad. This has been the main route of weapons, fighters and supplies between Turkey and the Islamic State’s ‘capital’ at Raqqa in eastern Syria.

The Past Year and Looking Ahead

Thirteen months ago it looked like the war in Syria was starting to move toward resolution. The last remaining armed opposition in the “capital of the revolution” Homs, reached reconciliation and withdrew from the Old City of Homs in May 2014.  On June 3, 2014 the election in Syria confirmed substantial support for the government.

Since then, we have seen dramatic changes. On June 10, 2014 ISIS surged through western Iraq and captured the city of Mosul and huge quantities of American armaments including tanks, rockets, humvees, etc. That led to the creation of the “Islamic State” and expansion in eastern Syria including Tabqa Air Base where hundreds of Syrian soldiers and ISIS fighters died.

This past spring saw the coalescing of numerous foreign and Islamist groups into the Jaish al Fatah (Army of Conquest) supported by Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.  With high powered TOW anti-tank missiles and thousands of shock troops they were able to overtake both Idlib and Jisr al Shugour near the Turkish border.

ISIS and the Army of Conquest are both dependent on the Turkish supply line. If that is closed off or seriously restricted, it will dramatically change the situation.

With the prospect of losing their base of support in Turkey, will the opposition try something desperate to draw the US and NATO into the conflict directly?

The Turkish people have indicated they want to stop their government’s war on Syria. If their will is respected, it should lead to restricting and stopping the foreign funding and promotion of the conflict. If Turkey stops the flood of weapons and foreign fighters into northern Syria, it will be following instead of violating international law. This will give peace a chance in Syria.

Rick Sterling is active with the Syria Solidarity Movement and Mt Diablo Peace and Justice Center. He can be emailed at: rsterling1@gmail.com.

June 25, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

US State Department accuses Iran of supporting terrorism

Press TV – June 20, 2015

The US State Department has accused Iran of supporting international terrorist groups, claiming the country’s terrorist activities continue.

The department said in its annual report on Friday that Iran is supporting those militant groups fighting against the ISIL terrorist group in Iraq and Syria.

The report also said the Islamic Republic increased its military aid to the Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and Shia fighters in Iraq last year.

Washington alleges that Tehran is increasing its support for Lebanon’s resistance movement Hezbollah and Palestinian resistance movements.

This is while the report makes almost no mention of Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, which are widely believed to be the main supporters of terrorists in the Middle East. The US itself stands accused of financing and arming militants in the region.

In an interview with Press TV on Friday, American political commentator Dr. Kevin Barrett said that the United States is the primary sponsor of the ISIL terrorists.

“It seems that they’re using a very self-serving definition of terrorism here and elsewhere,” he said.

“It’s ironic though that Iran has been bashed primarily for fighting against the people that this very report says are the world’s biggest terrorist threat and that would be ISIL and Takfiri terrorists,” Dr. Barrett added.

He also noted that Iran “has been the biggest single force fighting against that particular brand of terrorism that this report says it’s getting out of control.”

June 20, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , | Leave a comment

Global conflict cost world $14.3 trillion in 2014: Report

Press TV | June 18, 2015

The cost of global war in the year 2014 reached $14.3 trillion, or 13.4 percent of the global gross domestic product, a report by the Institute for Economics and Peace says.

Last year, the cost of global conflict equaled the combined economies of Britain, Germany, France, Brazil, Canada, and Spain, according to a recent report by the Australia-based group.

The statistics mark a 15.3-percent spike in the cost of conflicts since 2008 when the financial impact was recorded as $12.4 trillion, the report notes.

“Large increases in costs are due to the increases in deaths from internal conflict, increases for IDP (internally displaced person) and refugee support, and GDP losses from conflict, with the latter accounting for 38 percent of the increase since 2008,” the report stated.

Since 2008, the cost of supporting IDPs and refugees has increased by 267 percent and the number of people forced to relocate by war has reached its highest since the Second World War, the report noted.

It also described the Middle East and North Africa as the most violent regions in the world and Europe as the most peaceful, adding that Saudi Arabia’s ongoing aggression against Yemen has dragged down the overall outlook for the Middle East.

According to the report, Syria, which has been gripped by deadly unrest since March 2011, was world’s least peaceful country, followed by Iraq, Afghanistan, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic.

June 18, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey supplies Syria militants with Libya arms: Report

Press TV – June 15, 2015

Turkey has been involved in a covert arms trade between Libya and the Takfiri militant groups operating in Syria, a report has revealed.

Turkish Nokta weekly news magazine published its findings after examining the markings on the ammunition and casings in photos recently released by Turkish daily Cumhuriyet of intercepted Syria-bound Turkish trucks, English-language Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman reported on Monday.

The magazine discovered that the weapons and ammunition came originally from Libya and ended up in the hands of ISIL militants in Syria.

Last January, authorities stopped and searched a convoy of trucks belonging to Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, also known as the MIT, loaded with arms and ammunition near the Syrian border in the southern provinces of Hatay and Adana.

The Turkish government at the time claimed that the vehicles had been transporting humanitarian aid to Syria and denounced the interception as an act of “treason and espionage.”

However, the Cumhuriyet newspaper afterwards released photos and footage that showed steel containers filled with mortar shells and ammunition underneath boxes of medicine, saying they were transferred to Syria in trucks operated by the MIT.

The daily said the trucks had been carrying 1,000 artillery shells, 1,000 mortar shells, 50,000 machine gun bullets, and 30,000 heavy arms bullets.

After investigating the pictures, Nokta found out that in one photo, the words “Tripoli Socialist People”, which was written on one of the wooden boxes, should be read as “Tripoli Socialist People’s Libya.” It added that the word “Libya” could not be seen in the photo because it was on the wooden panel taken off by those examining its content.

The magazine also cited the sand in the boxes as another indication that they came from Libya.

Nokta further said that apparent mortar shells with blue tips and markings of “FULL CHARGE, UOF-412, 100mm G” were found among the items. This kind of mortar shells are used in the D-10 type Soviet-made tanks or similar models such as the T-54 and T-55 battle tanks.

Only the Syrian army and the ISIL terrorist group have tanks that are capable of using these mortars, the weekly said, noting that since ISIL has purportedly seized some Syrian army tanks in areas under their control, they would need ammunition to be able to use the tanks.

Nokta magazine stated that numerous videos and photos have emerged on social media platforms showing how ISIL, the al-Nusra Front and other extremist groups are using these kind of tanks and mortar shells.

The report also pointed to many pictures from ISIL terrorists with boxes of weapons and ammunition similar to those discovered in the intercepted trucks.

The militancy in Syria started in March 2011. The Western powers alongside their regional allies, including Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Qatar, have been supporting the militants financially and militarily.

June 16, 2015 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Turkey providing electricity to ISIL-held Syria town: Report

Press TV – June 13, 2015

A Turkish newspaper says Ankara provides electricity to the Syrian town of Tal Abyad controlled by ISIL terrorists, who are also allowed to freely walk in the streets of a Turkish border district.

Citing a Friday report by the Istanbul-based BirGün daily, English-language Turkish newspaper Today’s Zaman referred to “the not-so-secret presence of ISIL militants on the streets of Akçakale, in the southeastern province of Şanlıurfa.”

Akçakale forms a divided city with the Syrian town of Tal Abyad and has been experiencing “first-hand” the spillover of the unrelenting Takfiri militancy raging in Syria.

“The enemy is no longer at the gate, locals have bemoaned. It is here, in Akçakale. They are, of course, talking about ISIL,” Zaman wrote.

According to the source, the ISIL uses hotels in Akçakale as a gathering point for its recruitment efforts, transporting the recruits through the Turkish town to Tal Abyad.

The report adds the terror group also offers the locals high salaries in return for joining their ranks amid the social and economic woes in the border area.

“If I didn’t have a family, I probably wouldn’t be able to resist their offer. They offer to write off your credit card debt, give you a high salary,” the daily quoted a local as saying.

The report also said that the northern Syrian town of Tal Abyad, located in Raqqa Province, continues to receive electricity from Turkey.

The international community has for long been critical of Turkey over its provision of assistance to Takfiri terrorists waging war in Syria.

Meanwhile, newly-surfaced video footage has corroborated widespread assertions that the Turkish government’s intelligence agency has been ensuring ISIL terrorists safe passage into Syria.

The center-left Turkish daily, Cumhuriyet, integrated the videos in a Thursday report implicating the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in assisting the notorious Takfiri group.

Cumhuriyet had also posted a video on its website on May 29, purportedly showing trucks belonging to Turkey’s intelligence agency carrying weapons to the Takfiri terror groups operating in Syria.

The Turkish opposition group, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has called for an immediate end to Ankara’s support for terrorists in Syria.

Selahattin Demirtas, HDP’s co-leader, has noted that the move would be the key to restore the foreign relations of the new Turkish government to normal state.

June 13, 2015 Posted by | War Crimes | , , , | Leave a comment

Turkish intelligence agency giving ISIL safe passage into Syria

Press TV – June 12, 2015

Newly-surfaced video footage has corroborated widespread assertions that the Turkish government’s intelligence agency has been ensuring ISIL terrorists safe passage into Syria.

The center-left Turkish daily, Cumhuriyet, integrated the videos in a Thursday report implicating the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) in assisting the notorious Takfiri group.

The footage shows drivers admitting that they are “doing their duty to the state” by helping the militants bypass the territory near the heavily-defended Syrian city of Kobani.

One driver explains how vehicles would be accompanied by MİT agents during the trip, which would start from the Atme camp in Syria and end at the border town of Akçakale in Şanlıurfa Province, where the militants and cargo would reenter Syria.

One driver is seen saying, “They didn’t allow us to leave the vehicle [once we had arrived at Akçakale]. One of them [militants] was waiting by our side. Another vehicle came and parked behind my coach and they started moving the cargo from my vehicle [into the other one]. There were 46 [militants] in my coach, and I learned later on that there were 27 in the other bus. They were bearded men, scruffy looking.”

On June 5, the opposition daily had likewise accused Turkish authorities and intelligence agency of helping smuggle ISIL and other Takfiri terrorists into Syria from Turkey.

Cumhuriyet had also posted a video on its website on May 29, purportedly showing trucks belonging to Turkey’s intelligence agency carrying weapons to the Takfiri terror groups operating in Syria.

Syria has been struggling with an implacable militancy since March 2011. The US and its regional allies – especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey – are supporting the militants operating inside Syria.

The international community has long been critical of Turkey over its provision of assistance to Takfiri terrorists waging war in Syria.

The Turkish opposition group, the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has called for an immediate end to Ankara’s support for terrorists in Syria.

Selahattin Demirtas, HDP’s co-leader, has noted that the move would be key to restoring the foreign relations of the new Turkish government to a normal state.

June 12, 2015 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , , | Leave a comment

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